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Ronaldinho: From a Football Star to a Prisoner


Is there any Brazilian player who illustrated samba football better than Ronaldinho? The iconic number 10 player still remains to be one of the most enjoyable footballers to have ever stepped on a football field.

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He had a trick for almost every situation. Ronaldinho’s style of play was crafted through numerous hours of training. That said, his life post-retirement hasn’t been as smooth. In this article, we look into his illustrious career.

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Ronaldinho’s Career Development

Ronaldinho: From a Football Star to a Prisoner
Ronaldinho in training. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ronaldinho, full names Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, grew up near a slum in Porto Allegri, Brazil. His parents did menial jobs, which means that Ronaldinho didn’t have much. 

To help their situation, they decided to invest in Ronaldinho’s brother’s footballing career. However, an injury ended his career and that gave Ronaldinho the opportunity to develop himself.

Interestingly, he was trained by his brother, who taught him the skills he displayed throughout his career. According to Ronaldinho, his brother made him juggle the ball 500 times. This made him dislike the game but he admitted that it eventually shaped his game.  Some of these skills include: 

  • FlipFlap/Elastico
  • Patented Freekicks
  • Joga bonito dribble
  • No-look dribbling and passing
  • Hocus pocus

At that time, he went by the name Ronaldo until he joined a futsal team. He was the smallest player in the group, which earned him the name Ronaldinho. The suffix -inho- in Portuguese means small hence his name Ronaldinho. 

He recalled: “I was really small, that’s why they called me that. Also, there was another Ronaldo on the team who was older and better so I accepted Ronaldinho because I respected him.”

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At the age of 13, Ronaldinho was named the Most Talented Youth Player in Brazil. His wizardry and trickery wizard scored 23 goals in a game to help his team win a championship. 

In 1997, he was called up to the U17 national team, helped them win the tournament, and was the Best Player in the competition. 

In 1998, Ronaldinho signed his first professional contract with Gremio. He was the star player and played in one of the biggest tournaments in South American football, the Copa Libertadores

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Transfer to Europe

In 2000, the footballer moved to Europe and signed for French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for $5 million. His first appearance came in a 1-1 draw with Auxerre and he scored his first goal against Lyon. 

By the end of his first season, the Brazilian had a rift with his manager Luis Fernandez over his lifestyle. That said, he had a relatively good season in the following year but the failure of PSG to qualify for Europe saw him leave.

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Joining Barcelona

Ronalidhino was at the top of world football but his move to Spanish giants Barcelona produced his best moments. 

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In 2003, he signed for $31 million. His first game in a Barca shirt was against Juventus and he netted his first goal against Sevilla. 

In 2004, he was named the FIFA World Player of the Year and also won his first La Liga title.  In the next campaign, Ronaldinho scored in the El Clasico and helped the team to the Champions League final

Barcelona won its first Champions League title for the first time in 14 years. The Brazilian made it into the UEFA Team of the Year.

After five years in Barcelona, Ronaldinho moved to Italy, where he joined AC Milan. He spent four years there and played a total of 76 games. 

In the subsequent years until his retirement, Ronaldinho returned to Brazil and featured for:

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International Career

Ronaldinho got his first cap for the senior national team in 1999 during a Copa America game. At the FIFA Confederations Cup in the same year, he won the Golden Ball after scoring in all games but the final. 

In 2002, Ronaldinho was part of one of the greatest national teams in world football. He played alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo. 

The trio, famously known as the “Three Rs,” overwhelmed defenses en route to winning Brazil’s fifth and last World Cup title.  

The only other medal he won after that was a Bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Games. 

Although Ronaldinho was available until 2018, when he retired from international football, he wasn’t called up for the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. He played a total of 97 games and scored 33 goals. 

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Partying Lifestyle

Over the years, Ronaldinho was questioned about his partying lifestyle. Many claimed that it affected his career. According to a former teammate Jerome Leroy, he never showed up for training and came in on Friday for their Saturday game. 

‘Every morning he’d come in with sunglasses. He’d get changed and then go to the massage bed to sleep.’

When asked about it, Ronaldinho maintained that he was happy with the way his career panned out. 

Legal Troubles

Ronaldinho’s life away from the field contrasts with the happiness he gives people on it. In 2020, the former footballer was detained in a Paraguayan prison for using a fake Paraguayan passport. He was there for 32 days before he was released on bail and taken under house arrest.

Despite Ronaldinho’s claims of not regretting his partying lifestyle, many still wonder how much more he would have done had he been more disciplined. Anyone who watched him in his heyday would agree that he was a gem and still is one of the rarest players to play the game. 

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